Employers around the globe are increasingly recognizing their employees' domestic partnerships as a basis for extending human resource benefits. The practice has generated a number of human resource policy implications and has created a variety of legal, economic, and social issues and considerations. These issues and considerations have often created political and social controversy, which is beginning to subside at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Organizations that develop domestic partner programs hope these practices will help the organization accomplish its goals. Before starting programs, organizations usually investigate the cost-benefit analysis of both tangibles and intangibles in implementation. For example, some of the proposed benefits of domestic partner programs include a more committed workforce and lower turnover. Possible costs of implementation include coordination of the programs, costs associated with purchasing additional equipment, and resistance on the part of other employees including managerial staff.
The first employers to start offering domestic-partner benefits (DPB) in the 1980s were among a small-but-growing group of gay-owned enterprises. In the early 1990s, larger corporations began offering these benefits. Within the span of that decade, there was a rapid rise in the numbers and types of employers that began offering DPB. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation is one organization that tracks the changes in domestic-partner benefits among employers. When hard benefits are offered to and obtained by an employee, the value of those benefits is now taxed by the federal government as income to the employee. Legislation has been introduced to eliminate this tax, which married couples do not pay when they receive these benefits (Mickens, 49).
Not all employees have children, aging parents, or significant family obligations. Because of this, there has been evidence of a backlash against domestic partnerpractices by single and nonparent employees. Parker and Allen (2001) suggested that this backlash may have to do with perceptions of unfairness. It has been found that domestic partners may feel taken advantage of because of the perception that their personal lives are not as important as those of employees with children. Burkett (2000), supporting this line of thought, reported that single employees may feel pressure to work extra hours to cover for parents who need to pick up children from school, travel more extensively for work than coworkers with children, as well as settle for less desirable vacation times. Finally, Parker and Allen also reported that childless workers are less likely to be able to use flexible scheduling. (McNaught, 59) Using the open systems approach, providing support for a non-work role to some employees may put other employees at a disadvantage with the organization. This perception could lead single workers to seek employment elsewhere.